The Lost Saint Page 31

“And what does that mean to you?”

I thought about it for a moment. “It means that if you have the ability and the opportunity to help someone, but you don’t do anything just because you’re scared or it’s inconvenient or something, then maybe you’re just as bad as the people who caused the problem in the first place.”

“Good analysis,” he said. “Thank you.”

I was about to sit back down, but something about that explanation bothered me. “So doesn’t that mean if you have the abilities needed to help someone, then you should do it? I mean, the Good Samaritan could have just kept on walking like everyone else. But he chose to do something instead. That’s what makes him a hero. He didn’t let fear hold him back.”

“Yes, but the Samaritan also didn’t try to hunt down the bandits and fight them. He helped the wounded man through charity and compassion. Violence and fighting are not the answer.”

“But what if you’re at war? What if it’s a battle between good and evil? Shouldn’t you ‘fight fire with fire’?” I looked at Daniel, because that was how he’d described the reason for God’s creating the Urbat in the first place. In the battle against the devil and demons, God had created His own warriors to protect humankind. He’d imbued them with the essence of the most powerful beast in their highland forests—ancient wolves—in order to “fight fire with fire.” I looked back at Gabriel. “When you’re at war with someone evil, then it’s totally different, right? Sometimes you have to use extreme tactics to protect the ones you love?”

Gabriel cleared his throat. “Believe me, Grace. I’ve been to war. That’s not a place you want to go.”

I didn’t know what to say in return, so Gabriel and I just stood there, staring at each other for a moment, until Claire asked from behind me, “Were you in the Middle East?”

Gabriel blinked and looked at her. “I’m sorry, what?”

“The Middle East? The war? My brother’s in Iraq.”

Gabriel took a step back. “Oh, yes. I’ve been to the Middle East.”

“What’s it like?”

“I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.” His voice was soft, and I wasn’t sure he said it loud enough for anyone other than me to hear.

I sat down in my chair and opened my notebook.

“How about we move on with the lesson?” Gabriel said to the whole class. “I understand that you’ve all been discussing gospel principles, but I’m a firm believer in moving past talk and actually acting on the lessons we’re supposed to learn. Practice what we preach, so to speak. And according to what Mr. Shumway had planned for the next few weeks, it seems like he was a man of like mind.” Gabriel went to the board and wrote in large letters: Senior Religion Studies Project.

“Mr. Shumway had plans to institute a new requirement for all seniors who wish to graduate this year. He wanted each of you to fulfill an intensive community-service project before midterm break. I think it’s a brilliant idea, and I plan on carrying out the arrangements he’s already made.”

I sat up straighter. This must have been the big surprise Mr. Shumway had teased us with before he quit.

“Before the break?” Chris Conway, the principal’s son, stopped drawing flaming skulls on his notebook. I was surprised he’d been paying attention for once. “There’s only two more weeks until midterms. That’s impossible.”

“It’s not impossible, and I will be letting you out an hour early from school every day to report to your different projects.”

“Can we do anything we want?” April asked. “I could make jewelry for the kids at the children’s hospital.”

“Actually, Mr. Shumway already arranged your projects for you. We’ll be working with a group called the Rock Canyon Foundation.”

“They own the shelter in the city, right?” I asked.

“Very good, Grace.”

“I’m sorry, but there’s no way my parents will let me work at the shelter,” Katie said. “They don’t let me go into the city ever since those invisible criminals started running around.”

“That’s why we’ll be splitting into two groups. One group will be staying close to home. Mr. Shumway had originally planned for this group to volunteer with the Rock Canyon Foundation at their senior center in Oak Park. However, I’m going to make a modification to this. I assume most of you have heard about what happened at the local food market? I hear the proprietor needs help getting the store up and running again. There’s more cleanup and some light construction to do, and I imagine they could use a fund-raiser and a few free man-hours in the next few weeks.

“Daniel Kalbi will be heading up that group since he already works for Mr. Day. Those of you who aren’t allowed to travel, or who have work directly after school, will be in that group. Mr. Shumway had already contacted each of your guardians for permission and divided the class into two groups. Daniel has the names of those of you who will be staying in Rose Crest.”

Daniel waved the slip of paper he’d been looking at with Gabriel.

“Daniel, you’ll need a co-captain.”

I started to raise my hand, but I swear Gabriel deliberately ignored me. “The young lady sitting next to Daniel, what’s your name?”

“Katie Summers,” she said. “I’d be happy to co-captain.”

“Good,” he said. “Help Daniel pass out instructions to each of the people on his list.”

Just perfect, I thought. I raised my hand again. “I’d like to be in the Day’s Market group. I’ve already helped with some of the cleanup.”

“Actually, Grace”—Gabriel finally paid attention to me—“Mr. Shumway specifically named you as the captain of the second group, and I agree that you’d be the perfect fit. Your team will be working with the Rock Canyon Foundation as part of their Good Samaritan project. You’ll be split into pairs and assigned a driver, who will take you around to their various projects in the city and the neighboring towns. Anything from delivering food for Meals on Wheels, working at the Boys and Girls Club, helping the elderly with household tasks … whatever they need. This group will really be getting out there and serving the needs of the community.”

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